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Why is air quality bad today? Wildfire smoke continues to impact Philadelphia area

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A fire that burned thousands of acres in New Jersey's Bass River State Forest is leading to air quality alerts across the state of Delaware and parts of South Jersey Thursday.

Meanwhile, the smoke plume from a wildfire burning in Nova Scotia, Canada is also sticking around, mainly north and west of Philadelphia.

Delaware air quality alert: Why is air quality reduced today? What to know

Thursday, the air quality in Delaware ranged from moderate to unhealthy, according to, a site run by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Smoke from the Allen Road wildfire burning in Bass River State Forest near Tuckerton, Ocean County, is blowing south and west over Delaware.

CBS News Philadelphia

South of Delaware's capital, Dover, the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups such as the elderly and people with respiratory issues, according to Airnow. The impacted groups in particular should limit strenuous activity and time outdoors until the smoke passes.

For some of Thursday, Sussex County, the most southern county in Delaware, had an "unhealthy" amount of smoke particles in the air, according to Airnow. Maps showed the thickest smoke over towns including Milford, Rehoboth Beach, Georgetown and Seaford.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service said the Allen Road wildfire grew to 3,100 acres and was 15% contained as of Thursday afternoon.

N.J. added to Code Orange air quality alert

Later Thursday morning, a Code Orange quality alert was issued for multiple counties in South Jersey due to the Allen Road fire.

These counties are included in the alert:

  • Atlantic County
  • Burlington County
  • Camden County
  • Cape May County
  • Cumberland County
  • Gloucester County
  • Ocean County

A Code Orange means the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

CBS News Philadelphia

The smoke from the New Jersey fire is more concentrated than the Nova Scotia fir. 

Smoke from Nova Scotia wildfires still impacting Philadelphia region

Smoke from burning wildfires in Canada's Nova Scotia province is still impacting the region Thursday. Those impacts include a hazy sunrise and skies, meteorologist Kate Bilo reports.

Some of that smoke could reach the surface reducing air quality once again. Wednesday, smoke from the fires led to air quality alerts and hazy skies in the city and surrounding region.

Smoke plume from Nova Scotia, Canada wildfires over the Philadelphia region on Thursday, June 1, 2023. This smoke plume is clearing out and will be heaviest north and west of the city in areas such as the Lehigh Valley. CBS News Philadelphia

There are no air quality alerts in Philadelphia or the surrounding Pennsylvania counties Thursday. Airnow's map shows "moderate" air quality for most of the region.

As the day goes on, the area is expected to see the Nova Scotia wildfire smoke dissipate.

According to the regional government, the largest fire grew to over 44,000 acres. The fires and smoke displaced thousands and closed schools in the area.

Smoke from N.J. wildfire could blow northwest into Philadelphia, Pa. suburbs

This graphic shows the current path of the New Jersey forest fire smoke and the trajectory it could take later in the day. CBS News Philadelphia

The plume of smoke from the Bass River State Forest wildfire is so large it can be seen from satellites.

The smoke is traveling southwest from southeastern Burlington County and is traveling beyond into Delaware and Maryland.

Philadelphia is in a "moderate" level Thursday, but, as the winds begin to shift in the afternoon, more of that smoke could move toward Camden and Mount Holly, as well as into the Philadelphia area and eastern Pennsylvania. Depending on the winds, this could even push the smoke into the Trenton area.

We are keeping an eye on the path of the smoke and will keep you updated.

To see Philadelphia's current air quality, visit the city's current conditions tracker.

Health effects of low air quality

If you're in an area where air quality has decreased due to the smoke, you may experience headaches, difficulty breathing, fatigue or irritated eyes and sinuses.

If you are in or near Sussex County, Delaware, where there is "unhealthy" air, you should reduce the amount of time outdoors and try to exercise outdoors after air quality has improved.

Under "unhealthy" conditions, children and teens, the elderly and people with heart or lung disease should avoid strenuous outdoor activities and limit time outside. Any physical activities should be moved indoors or rescheduled.

Box Turtle wildfire 100% contained

Another wildfire in South Jersey, the Box Turtle wildfire, was 100% contained Wednesday. Smoke from this fire also contributed to hazy conditions around the region.

CBS News Philadelphia's Brandon Goldner spoke to residents of Franklin Township who were close to the fire, which grew to 158 acres.

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